Each Thursday, WolverineNation will take a look at five storylines for the Wolverines heading into Saturday's game. Here are the storylines for Michigan as it starts its conference title hunt off with a trip to Purdue.
1.) Denard needs to make plays in the passing game. The Wolverines will have a very hard time beating anyone if quarterback Denard Robinson turns the ball over five times. But considering Marshall was able to put up 439 yards in the air against Purdue, that might be the way to go to get the ‘W.’ In order to do that, Robinson needs to hit his receivers in stride, not throw off his back foot, make the right checkdowns and make the right reads. At times, he has done that, but not often enough.
2.) Short will be a tall task. Kawann Short is going to be one of the better defensive tackles the Wolverines’ offensive line faces all season. And just two weeks removed from the Notre Dame game, which saw 23 missed assignments from the O-line, Michigan needs to shore up its offensive line or Short will have a big day. The 6-foor-3, 315-pound Boilermaker is averaging a sack a game and Michigan coach Brady Hoke -- a defensive coach -- has already recognized Short as one of the best D-linemen in the conference.
3.) Don’t give up big plays. Hoke touched on it during his Wednesday news conference, but one of the ways to help yourself on the road is not to allow the opponents’ fans to become too much of a factor. A team can do that by not allowing big plays. The Wolverines have allowed at least one a game, despite marked improvement by the secondary. But, as the Big Ten race heats up, those are going to be the aspects that separate the top teams from those who don’t make it to Indianapolis.
4.) Get the run game going. This has probably been a key every week, but it’s going to be a staple of any team. And it’s especially obvious for the Wolverines because of their lack of run game so far this season. Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to have his game in order to really get his season going, and the Wolverines are hoping its sooner rather than later. As long as Toussaint is quiet, Michigan is pretty much one-dimensional with just Robinson (though, yes, he is multidimensional).
5.) The defensive line needs to be stronger at the point of attack. The defense was much improved against Notre Dame, and that all starts up front. When the front four are able to get more push at the line of scrimmage, it helps everyone else out. When they’re flat, the linebackers and secondary are called upon to do too much. Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush threw four touchdowns against Marshall and he’s feeling good right now. If the Wolverines give him too much time in the pocket, he’ll continue to look good.